Trip Start Dec 28, 2011
22Trip End Jan 19, 2012
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As I was packing my backpack this morning, my dad remarked that an explosion just went off in Yangon - 17 dead & 80 injured. On the plane towards Yangon, reading the news, it turned out to be a warehouse explosion, unrelated to the country's internal conflicts.
My first impression of aerial Myanmar was barren farmland. And Brown. Then it looked like we touched down literally on someone's backyard. Yangon International Airport - in all its modern facade of glaxing and steel cladding fooled me a little. For a pleasant surprise, the customs checkout however was quick and painless and stressfree. The local crowds were able to view the entire checkout process, which I thought was interesting - Am I to wave back?
A taxi driver effortlessly negiotiated a US$10 ride to the city
We stopped 45 minutes later outside of Ocean Pearl Inn along Botataung Pagoda Road but they did not have a room for me. With no kyat currencies on me, I walked to the city centre, fishing for rooms, rather aimlessly. By the time I passed the night market (literally a night wet market along Anawrahta Road), I had to stop and ask for help. An elderly Indian burmese man came to my rescue outside of a cafe when the locals had trouble understanding what I was after. Johnny pulled out a budget hotel name card and assured me that it is a clean and family run business. Better yet, he took me there and even called the reception to reserve a room (in fact it was the last available room).
Chan Myae Guesthouse, 256/276 Maha Bandoola Garden Street, was just around the corner. For US$9 a night - a windowless cell room at the top floor (Level 8) with air conditioning - I thought i better take it - It was already past 5pm! The paper thin enclosure was just along a couple of family residences separated with only the modesty of hanging bedsheets to their "bedrooms"
Showered quickly and stepped out to hunt for dinner. Chicken biryani at an apparently popular stall was appetising. I began noticing the multicultural mixpot of bamar, chinese and indian folks. The locals' friendliness was also unparalleled. All smiles and photos.
Made my way to Sule Paya at the heart of the city centre and had a glimpse of the grandness of Shwedagon Pagoda further away. Just west to Sule Paya, I found a western donut outlet Tokyu Donuts with free wifi connection and thought I should check it out. Wifi speed was decent but not consistently stable.
Ventured into a tiny grocery store and overheard the owner-couple conversing in mandarin about me (trying to determine my nationality). They turned out to be a local burmese-chinese and taiwanese chinese couple. I tried ordering food from a food stall but they had no english menu. A japanese traveller offered to help with his useful burmese/japanese menu phasebook (what a brilliant idea!).
Further down the street, I finally found a food stall with English menu. Looking bright and clean, supper was swiftly ordered - a bowl of chinese styled dry noodles with minced meat - for just 500 kyats - supper size. And for another 500 kyats, a bunch plumb looking bananas from the wet market.